New Report: Evaluating the World Bank's Approach to Global Programs
This has been a good week for the official relief and develop-
ment assistance (ORDA) community. The UN got to publish the
study they have done in connection with the Millennium Develop-
ment Goals (Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and co-writer experts - some 256
of them if I remember right) and now the World Bank (WB) is pub-
lishing its own report "Evaluating the World Bank's Approach to
Global Programs", a multi-hundred page report that adds further
to the piles and piles of ORDA reports I already have.
I cannot pretend to have read the whole thing. But I already
have a number of questions:
1. How many accountants were on the team that did the WB's
analysis of itself? What is the academic/experience/age/ func-
tional/career profile of all the contributors to the study?
2. How much sense is it for an organization to have a big de-
partment in charge of evaluating itself? Who pays the salaries
and assures the pensions of the staff of the evaluation depart-
ment? (The IMF's independent evaluation team is also on the
IMF's payroll and pension roll).
3. What does the WB stand for? I see an enormous need for a suc-
cessful efficient World Bank or other institution that has the
function to provide finance for Government's around the World on
a sustainable basis. And I see a need for Nations to have Gov-
ernments that have the sort of integrity and standing to be able
to borrow responsibly. A lot of this is about accounting, gov-
ernment accounting, and following very basic simple procedures
that have been around for 150 years or so. There is lots of
planning and evaluation, but precious little implementation ex-
cellence and decent accounting and financial reporting.
4. But I see no need whatsoever for institutions that take per-
fectly good financial resources and delivers them to activities
that produce little or no development progress, but do bring
debt to development.
I guess I am mad as hell. I started to write inside the World
Bank about the corrupt manner in which their projects were being
implemented in the 1980s, and the Burgess problem was solved by
making me go away as a consultant. It is now 20 years later, and
so little has changed in this time with the WB and the ORDA com-
munity as a whole. Just a younger set of people doing more or
less the same things. More computers, but still not much ac-
counting, transparency and accountability.
But one thing has changed. There are now thousands of people
like me who see that ORDA style relief and development is expen-
sive and ineffective, and also know how much good can come from
a modest amount of the right resources in the right places. And
we also know that with good information it is possible for
socio-economic relief and development to progress rapidly.
I am part of the Transparency and Accountability Network (Tr-Ac-
Net) which is encouraging excellence in transparency and ac-
countability and trying to make it the norm rather than the ex-
ception in our society. We are also supportive of community cen-
tric sustainable development, and helping to get resource flows
where they will do the most good.
None of this seems to be on the ORDA and WB agenda. Maybe there
is a need for more money for global relief and development, but
there is also a need for more effective use of existing resource
flows. One way in which Tr-Ac-Net can help with this is through
more knowledge about good things. They exist, but many are
small, in the informal sector, and not well known. There are
millions of them. But I don't think they are the focus of most
of the ORDA and WB funding.
Please contact me (Peter Burgess) in New York USA or Kris Dev in
Chennai, India if you would like to know more about Tr-Ac-Net
and/or would like to join in and help.
P.S. I refer to payroll and pension roll because the wealth of a
World Bank staff member who has been with the WB more than say
15 years is more about pension value than anything else, and
this distorts decision making in a very damaging way. It would
be interesting to have an independent externally funded study of
Tr-Ac-Net in New York
Tr-Ac-Net in Chennai